Monday, October 30, 2006

Marvel Ultimate Alliance

I've had a few days to spend with Marvel Ultimate Alliance and I'm prepared to share my impressions with you. How lucky you must feel!

Basically, if you played X-Men Legends or X-Men Legends 2 and enjoyed them, you'll enjoy this game as it's basically the same thing, only in 3-d and with more heroes. That means that it's still as fun to unleash your superpowers as it was in those games, and it's still as annoying when your teammates box you in behind a pillar because they refuse to get out of your way. Reed Richards may be a supergenius, but he's not so good with the personal space.

There's a pretty good roster of heroes to start with, allowing you to make smaller sized versions of the Avengers, the New Avengers, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. For the record, that last one is full sized. Finding new and interesting team combos is part of the fun as you get bonuses for having say, all brawlers, or all women, or all people who can fly. You can also make your own team, once you get to a certain point, and as long as you keep with that team, you earn reputation points which allow your team to perform better. The problem with this system is that not all heroes are available from the start, so if you're someone like me who wants to make a team with Dr. Strange, Blade and Ghost Rider, you'll have to wait until you unlock them to make your Team Supreme thereby missing out on earning reputation points while you wait. You could make a team and then just swap out members when they become available but then you lose reputation points. Apparently no one in the Marvel universe likes quitters. Sure, I could use a cheat code to unlock them all and then make my team, but it'd be odd to have Ghost Rider on my team when I do whatever it is I have to do to rescue Ghost Rider. Ghost Rider, meet Ghost Rider. That would be awkward.

Each hero has 4 different outfits, which, in some cases, extends the number of heroes available. Not much, mind you, as Beta Ray Bill is Thor, just with orange skin and a vaguely horse skull like head but if you're an Omega Flight freak like some people I know, you'll be happy for the extra outfits. Along with the different outfits, you can also purchase points to make your spandex of choice super buff, so that not only will you be making a statement that Wolverine's brown and orange outfit was the best, but you'll be sentencing him to an underpowered demise should he choose to take it off. Take that overexposed mutie!

Combat is pretty fun and fast paced. Just when you think you've obtained a set of powers that make the game too easy, you start a new level where you're strategy doesn't work quite as well. Thankfully you level up quite quickly, so new, stronger powers aren't too far off at any given point. There appears to be some Xtreme powers available, just as in X-Men Legends 1 and 2, however I can't figure out how to actually unlock them and use them. Perhaps I need to drink more Mountain Dew. It seems like a a good place to start.

I haven't played any multiplayer however it seems untouched from the X-Men Legends 2 days, complete with the inability to just pick a map, instead forcing you to load up a save game and make everyone play from it. It's a little annoying but the addition of things like competitive coop which allows you to steal kills, energy and health orbs from others makes up for the inconvenience. At least I would think it does.

The cutscenes are a mixed bag. The CGI movies that start off the game and the different acts are amazing and will make any fan of Captain American long for a fully rendered Cap movie. The movies in between levels on the other hand, are done with the in-game engine, which means every emotion has to be displayed with excessive hand gestures, due to the fact that the character models don't have changeable facial expressions. This is made even more annoying by the fact that the game isn't smart enough to know what heroes you're using and swap them into the cutscenes. Instead you have a cutscene with Wolverine, Spider-Man, Thor and Captain America on the jet to the next mission, but when you get there, they've been magically transformed into the Fantastic Four. Not a big deal, but what fun would it be if all I did was say how great the game is?

Along with the story there are various comic book missions for heroes in the game, heroes not in the game but part of the Marvel Universe and villains you fight during the story missions. Playing as heroes in the game allows you to unlock more skins and generally make your heroes even more heroic. Playing as other non-unlockable heroes, or as villains lets your 360 transform into an Easy Bake oven and make you cookies. Actually, I have no idea what it does as I haven't played any of them yet, but you have to admit that's a pretty damn cool idea.

So far I'm having a great time playing the game and have had my ass handed to me a number of times by various supervillains, so it's definitely not a cake walk. If you're into Marvel superheroes and enjoy a game where you can mash buttons and have it magically transformed into every power you ever wished you had, then you won't be disappointed. Now let's hope that DC wises up and hires Raven to do a DC version. It certainly can't be worse than Justice League Heroes, a game so bad, it made Batman boring.


Bones said...

You've played JL Heroes? I was still planning on getting it soon, but if it's that bad I guess I'll wait for a price drop. That's disappointing, I was a big fan of the Baldur's Gate games.

suburbanjoe said...

I have not played it, I'm just going from what I've read in every review of the game.

Fabrizio said...

I'm an italian newcomer on your blog. Here in Italy ther's a Gabriele Dellotto pin-up for the ads of this game.

Is it the same in US too?

Anyway, good blog

Greetings from Italy